Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 12/29/13
Seahawks keys to success Anytime a football team faces a division rival, it is a dangerous game.  That was graphically demonstrated last week when the Arizona Cardinals’ defense used their knowledge of Darrell Bevell’s playbook to completely dismantle the Seattle Seahawks offense. Of course, he din’t help matters with his play-by-play adjustments; but I’ll discuss that a little later. Let’s go 12th man! This week I’m calling on each and every 12th man, woman and child to breakout each and every superstition you have for game day.  I’m not a very superstitious person — as the meme says, “I’m a little stitious” — but with the division and home-field advantage depending on Sunday’s game, I figure it is time to pull out all the stops. The 12th man needs to be in full force this weekend. (Photo: Ted Warren/AP) Granted, the Seahawks don’t necessarily have to beat the Rams to capture the top spot. If the Cardinals beat the San Francisco 49ers in Arizona, Seattle will be NFC West Champions no matter what happens this weekend at CenturyLink Field. That said, I’d much rather the Seahawks take care of their own business and not depend on anyone else to do it for them. On the field The first order of business will be to play disciplined football.  Pete Carroll’s team may be very talented, but it doesn’t play with the level of discipline that many head coaches would find acceptable. The league averages around six penalties per game, while the Seahawks have played 10 games where they have had at least eight penalties. They average more than eight per contest. I know that coach Carroll’s style is to have a very physical and aggressive brand of football, but a lot of the penalties we are seeing, especially the ones that tend to hurt them the most, are very avoidable with a little discipline. Two out of Carroll’s first three seasons as Seattle’s head coach the Seahawks had around the six penalties per game.  Both those seasons, the team made the playoffs while the one season where they averaged over eight penalties per game, prior to this season, they sat at home in January watching. This season they have already made the playoffs, but the lack of discipline could easily cost them an important game. Maybe as early as this weekend. Russell Wilson needs to play better.  Last week was the worst game I have seen him play since early in his rookie season.  I’m not sure what happened to him during the game, but that Russell Wilson needs to go back to rookie mini-camp and stay there. It was not Wilson’s fault alone.  His line didn’t help him out much.  The Cardinals had free rushers up the middle, while their ends were able to collapse the pocket from the outside, which gave Wilson no escape on many plays.  This week, Chris Long and Robert Quinn are going to try to match their Week 8 production and leave Seattle with another three sacks apiece.  I expect Quinn to be even more hungry as he makes his final push to become the Defensive Player of the Year. Offensive line coach Tom Cable and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will need to find creative ways to minimize the duo’s effect on their offense.  I look for them to use tight ends and running backs to chip the ends.  Normally I would say that I expect to see some quick slants, but Bevell seemed to avoid those at all cost last weekend, so I don’t know what to think.  I do expect to see a handful of screen plays whether they are to running backs or wide receivers.  Those always slow down the pass rush. The Hawks were outgained on the ground by nearly 160 yards in the first matchup. (Photo: Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports) The Seahawks’ offense needs to get some first downs.  In the October matchup, Seattle had just seven first downs the entire game; two of which came off of penalties.  I put a lot of that on Bevell. Last week I complained about how the Seahawks faced 13 first downs and never ran the ball.  Well, in Seattle’s first meeting with St. Louis, they faced 11 3rd-down opportunities and the only time they ran the ball was a draw with Marshawn Lynch on third and 17. Running the ball was an issue for Seattle the entire game in October.  The Rams out-gained the Seahawks on the ground by nearly 160 yards.  Of course, the Rams ran the ball over twice as much, but they also averaged nearly twice as many yards per rush as the Seahawks.  Even if the running game is struggling during the early part of the game, Bevell needs to stay committed to the run. The entire point of having a smash-mouth running game is to wear a defense out.  That doesn’t happen with 15 rushes. All of that will help the Seahawks accomplish the most important key to success.  In the last meeting between these two teams, the Rams held the ball for over 16 more minutes than the Seahawks. If they follow the blueprint above, the time of possession battle will take care of itself. All the Seahawks need to do is follow the blueprint to victory above and they will become the NFC Western division Champions for the 6th time since joining the division in 2002.  That is twice as many as any team in the division has won since re-alignment. Go Seahawks! CHECK OUT THE SEAHAWKS CLUBHOUSE AT THE NORTHWEST SPORTS BEAT!
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